I’ll never forget the first time I interviewed Eric Church. It was in 2010 at Joe’s Pub after his performance at the CMA Songwriters Series. We were in a tiny dressing room backstage and it was a different side of the singer than I had expected. A few months earlier I saw him live for the first time opening for Miranda Lambert and he put on a high energy show that packed a punch. At the CMA Songwriters Series, he was stripped down with just a guitar telling the stories behind his songs. The entire interview, he’d answer each question with a “Yes, ma’am” and I was pleasantly confused. While I understand that’s a Southern way to show respect I was confused because I was quite a bit younger than him.
This past February, I was in Nashville for work and my colleague Kurt and I headed to a record studio on Music Row to sit down with Eric once again. Maybe because it was two of us, he never said “Yes, ma’am” but the interview was nothing short of insightful. Below is an excerpt of the Q&A. Read the rest at Radio.com.
You’ve said that the process of making an album is tough and takes a lot out of you. Do you still feel that way?
It’s brutal. It’s why I won’t make a lot of them. I think you have to put yourself there artistically, first of all as a songwriter [Church cowrote every song on The Outsiders not to mention nearly every song on his three previous studio albums, too] . That’s the most important thing, is you have to … go get em and write em. It’s hard. And the worst part for me, is after you know you got the songs, then you got to record them that way, you have to capture them. So what you wrote then has to turn into something that stands up to the lyrical content on the record.
And I’ve lost more songs that way, where you got the best song in the world, but for whatever reason you didn’t capture that magic. So that’s the maddening part. You lose that, song’s gone, and you’ve wasted it. And when you’ve written 121 and [edited them down] to 12, you don’t want to lose those 12. So that part’s maddening to me, and it’s the hardest part of what I do.
You really wrote 121 songs for this project?
I was shocked to learn that myself. We wrote about 60 for Chief, so we wrote twice as many. I don’t know why … it wasn’t something like, ‘let’s write twice as many.’ It just ended up being that way.
What were the ideas behind the cryptic video teasers you created leading up to the release of The Outsiders?
I wish I could take more credit, [but] my manager actually came up with that and shot those. I love a good mystery anyway, I love having fun. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, never have been, and never will be [laughs]. So it’s a way to interact with the fans without that. It’s a way to have some fun [and] add some intrigue.
There’s a lot of mysteries and a lot of hidden messages that are in those cryptic things that talk about a lot of stuff that’s coming down the line, that [fans] don’t know yet. Maybe a single choice, maybe another video, maybe another character. And we put that in there just to see how many of them could pick it apart and find out. So that’s what it was, just a different way of interacting.
Is that also true of the story and characters that appear in your video for “Give Me Back My Hometown”?
Same thing. And we actually talked about that in the cryptic messages, we alluded to what was coming in the video. All the characters that are in that — light will be shed on them, as we go through this single process and video process. So throughout this entire album, that story line will continue to play out. And the ending is quite remarkable. So, we’ll get to that one day.
Are you planning to create a longer film treatment for any of the songs, the way you did with “Springsteen”?
Yes [smiles]. We are.